By CHRISTIAN WAKEFIELD
AS part of its thrust to promote tourism in the countryside, the Department of Tourism (DOT) yesterday announced the availability of financial grants for small, tourism-related businesses under the Grassroots Entrepreneurship for Eco-Tourism (GREET) program.
So far, Tourism Undersecretary Phineas Alburo said during the 888 News Forum yesterday, around 52 small businesses nationwide have already been approved under the GREET program with over P12 million released to fund
entrepreneurs that have feasible tourism related enterprise.
The program seeks to enhance livelihood opportunities for promising entrepreneurs who can best explore the inherent tourist-drawing potentials of eco-tourism sites.
“This is to support our thrust of promoting and helping not only big-time businesses in the industry but also those small time shops that offer local delicacies, souvenirs and other eco-tourism-related activities,” said Alburo.
Since the implementation of the program in 2008, Alburo said the DOT office has already received 410 proposals from entrepreneurs whose businesses range from production of pasalubong, wood carvings as souvenirs, small-time kayaking tours, among others.
“We are not just concentrating on bigtime businesses. With the GREET program, countryside tourism will be further promoted and we can always ask family members of our beneficiaries to support us in our endeavors,” said Alburo.
Under the program, an entrepreneur who has a feasible tourism-related enterprise will get P50 to P100 thousand cash grant, depending on the type business, as assistance to augment capital, buy inventory and equipment, or for other purpose that is needed in the business.
The DOT will closely monitor the development of the financial assistance and give advice to the entrepreneur if needed, just to make the program work, said Alburo.
In Central Visayas, around eight SMEs have already benefited from the program, including the production of pasalubong in Anda, Bohol; wood carvings in Loboc, Bohol; kayaking in Danao and Bantayan Island, Cebu, among others.
Tourism Secretary Ace Durano earlier said the participation of the community is one of the focus of the program.
He cited that in Donsol, Sorsogon, the community had champion the GREET Program through their whale shark watching. The other areas are in Bohol where the chocolate hills are located and in Siargo in the Caraga Region.
Under the program, they need to level the playing field by giving the community easy access to skills, capital, market opportunities plus value formation.
In Donsol, he said 60 fishing boats were transformed into tourists’ boats that will ferry visitors to the area where they will get first hand look of the whale sharks and the fishermen as “butanting” tour guide.
Right now, he said, the Donsol community are advocating other communities by using tourism to gain livelihood.
“We will not move in the area unless we are done in a community,” he said.
Other projects that can be funded under the GREET program range from operation of new facilities such as watersports, hiking, tourguiding and interaction guiding, groundhandling, food and beverage establishments, souvenir shops, gear and equipment shops and accommodations.